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BMW 123d Coupe

The BMW 123d Coupe offers the feel of a real driver's car in a small package.

BMW 123d M Sport

Model/Engine size: 2.0 D

Fuel: Diesel

Fuel economy combined: 54.3 mpg

BMW’s Mini Cooper D is one of our favourite fun green cars. The BMW 123d Coupe goes one step better – it also has great performance and is incredibly efficient – but it’s rear-wheel-drive. Although the Mini has great go-kart like handling, the 1 Series Coupe offers the feel of a real driver’s car – in a small package.

As well as being great to drive, the 123d has excellent vital statistics, managing 54.3mpg, 138g/km CO2 and 148mph.

Central to the success of the 123d is its great engine; the 2 litre unit has twin turbos; a small one for lower revs, and a larger one for higher revs, the end result of which is a very handy 201bhp, yet it will average over 50mpg on a motorway run, when it’s also very quiet. It comes with a six speed manual gearbox, or an auto can be specified.

And of course the 1-Series Coupe comes with BMW’s Efficient Dynamics technology, including energy-saving electric power steering, and ancillaries that operate only when required, such as the air conditioning unit and water pump. There’s also Auto Start Stop, which can turn the engine off in stationary traffic, and Brake Energy Regeneration, which recharges the battery when the car is slowing down but disconnects the alternator during acceleration, thus reducing the load on the engine so that power is increased and fuel use reduced.

Although based on the 1 Series hatchback, the 1 Series Coupe is better to drive. BMW has tweaked the chassis, including using a new five-arm rear axle, while retaining the 50:50 front-rear weight distribution. This results in an excellent combination between balanced and responsive handling, controlled roll and a comfortable ride. The car feels well-planted to the road, while at the same time having a fluid chassis that can be controlled on the throttle through corners. It offers a highly enjoyable B-road driving experience, while also allowing you to get out of the car refreshed after a day travelling up and down the nation’s motorways.

The car has an overall feeling of solidity and quality, including in the interior. It has a good driving position, and a small, thick-rimmed steering wheel combines with the precise steering to add to the driving experience. It’s also well equipped – in addition to the kit on entry-level ES versions – electric windows, air-conditioning, alloy wheels, an MP3 input socket, automatic headlights and wipers – and the SE trim which adds front fog lights, climate control, rear parking sensors and a multifunction steering wheel – the M Sport spec has bespoke 18-inch alloy wheels, sports seats, sports suspension and a sporty bodykit.

The rear seats are full size and their backs fold in a 60/40 split, however there is a trade-off in terms of limited rear leg room. The boot is surprisingly big, with the battery under the boot floor – there’s no spare as the tyres are run-flats.

How could this car be improved? Well, there’s not much around at the moment that can beat it in terms of a combination of driving experience and efficiency. However the styling is not to everyone’s tastes. The main problem is the big googley-eyed headlights. If BMW made the headlights sleeker rather than having them droop down, it would make the 1 Series Coupe a much better looking car. The new Audi TT diesel is a natural rival, and a more stylish looking one in most people’s eyes.

Although it’s difficult to fault the 123d engine, it has to be said that ultimately the 135i 3.0-litre straight six twin-turbo petrol engine is more responsive and rewarding for spirited driving in this small coupe – although the petrol unit is not as frugal.

One last – and very trivial gripe – the BMW wheel design department. Yes the alloy wheels on this model look OK, but it’s pretty much impossible to clean the brake dust out of the ridiculously narrow gaps in the alloy spokes. Perhaps BMW needs to ensure all the company’s wheel designers actually clean the items they design.

Beating Spirit Summary – BMW 123d Coupe

So if you’re OK with this car’s looks and can live with having to clean the alloys, then the BMW 123d Coupe is a car that you will love driving, but it’s also a car that will go relatively gentle on its fuel. It’s right up there at the very top of our list of fun green cars – let’s hope we see more from other manufacturers.

Fuel economy extra urban: 64.2 mpg

Fuel economy urban: 43.5 mpg

CO2 emissions: 138 g/km

Green rating: VED band C – £120

Weight: 1495 Kg

Company car tax liability (2007): 18%

Price: £25,453 (From £20,918 to £28,742)

Insurance group: 16

Safety: NCAP 5 stars

Max speed: 148 mph

0-62mph: 7.0 seconds

DPF: Yes

Road testing the BMW 123d M Sport

Beating Spirit putting the BMW 123d M Sport through its paces

Interior of the BMW 123d M Sport